When my gynecologist told me I had a lump in my breast and should get it biopsied, I wasn’t particularly worried. My mother and sister had both had the same experience — more than once in my mother’s case — and each time it had turned out to be a false alarm.
I wasn’t so lucky. When the test results came back and I found out I had cancer, I was scared, but also shocked. I was young — not yet thirty — and, though I was aware that women my age could get breast cancer, it seemed entirely ridiculous that it should happen to me.
At my first appointment with a doctor, post-diagnosis, I was informed that about 7 percent of all cases of breast cancer occur in women less than 40 years old. That’s not a lot, in the grand scheme of things, but it was a much higher number than I was expecting. I remember being relieved. This meant that I wasn’t alone, even if what was happening to me was unusual.
The doctor also informed me of how lucky I was to have been diagnosed early. Young women with breast cancer often don’t realize that anything’s wrong until the cancer is far advanced, since they’re less likely to get tested regularly and more likely to dismiss any abnormalities as harmless.
What I Learned
I didn’t feel lucky, to be honest. This wasn’t the first time that I had felt that my own body was working against me, and it wouldn’t be the last. More than anything else, I felt angry — angry at myself, angry at the doctor who diagnosed me, angry at the neighbors who brought casseroles. You get the picture.
It’s hard for me to admit this, but I would have been better off letting go of that anger. If there’s one thing I learned from battling cancer, it’s that being angry at the world in general doesn’t get anything done. If you can’t channel your anger into something productive, it’s only hurting you.
I also learned to accept help when it’s offered, which was something I’d struggled with into the past. When my cancer went into remission, the generosity continued, and as much as I wanted everything to be back to normal, I had to admit to myself that I still needed help.
To a certain extent, I’ve emerged from my battle with cancer as a better person. I still live in fear of the disease returning, but at least I’ve learned to appreciate each day for what it is.